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360 Break Dance fetes 10 years in Marysville | SLIDESHOW

MARYSVILLE — It started at the Marysville Family YMCA 10 years ago as a way of raising $100 to buy a boom box, and it drew a grand total of 150 attendees.

In the years since then, the annual 360 Break Dance Competition has attracted hundreds of contestants each year, scoring its highest turnout in 2007 with 1,000 attendees, and it’s drawn them not only from across the state and throughout the Pacific Northwest, but also from the other side of America and even a few foreign countries.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring recognized the significance of the event by issuing a proclamation declaring Saturday, June 23, to be Marysville Family YMCA 360 Break Dance Competition Day, and on that Saturday afternoon and evening, the Totem Middle School gymnasium was stuffed to overflowing, not only with b-boys and b-girls going up against each other in breakdancing battles, but also by the spectators who crowded the bleacher seats to watch the teens and young adults show off their skills.

The annual event is staged by the Marysville YMCA’s Minority Achievers Program, with Benji Travis taking charge of it since its inception. Travis was only 18 years old when the 360 Break Dance Competition kicked off a decade ago, and this year, he handed off the reins to 20-year-old Dominique-Jean Dacoco, who hadn’t even been active in dance before a friend invited him to check out 360 four years ago.

“I hadn’t done any breaking before then, but I ended up loving it because of this event,” Dacoco said. “I loved the vibe of it, and how it all felt when I came here.”

“Aside from the obvious growth in numbers of competitors and spectators, the biggest change since this thing started has been why we do it,” Travis said. “It began as a simple fundraiser, but it’s become an experience that teaches participants teamwork and leadership, and instills in them a belief that they can create what they want. Folks in Seattle thought this would fall flat on its face at first, but since then, they’ve been coming out here right alongside dancers from Portland, Vancouver, California, Alaska, New York and even Korea.”

Travis credited the escalating year-to-year attendance numbers to the hard work in planning and promoting the event done by so many of the volunteers and dancers themselves, whom he praised for putting together quality breaking battles. Dacoco anticipates that he might tweak the formula a bit, but for the most part, he sees it as his role to continue what’s made 360 such a success so far.

“This is just a really fun place for kids to go,” Dacoco said. “Hip hop has become associated with a negative outlook, but we want to show how positive it can be. Hip hop’s true essence is all about peace, love and unity, just getting along and having fun with each other. I want to keep 360 as strong as it’s been, and make sure it never gets boring.”

He’ll have some help in doing so, because while Travis is stepping back, he’s not stepping away from 360.

“I’m not ready to let this go just yet, but I’ll be more of an advisor,” Travis said. “It’s like going from being a committee chair to being a board member.”

“I’ve known Benji for years, and Dom has been one of my best hires,” said Carlton Doup of Kung Fu 4 Kids in Marysville, which hosts breakdancing nights after the YMCA’s closing times. “What these kids can do is amazing, so the least we can do is give them safe spaces to do it in.”

Tacoma’s Byron Donaldson and Lynnwood’s Victor Teng are 360 regulars, and they agreed that few other breakdancing contests can match the sheer scope of 360.

“Most of the other battles I’ve been to are more local and really small,” Donaldson said. “I love the self-expression that breakdancing allows me. I feel free to show myself and be an individual while I’m doing it.”

“It’s a great outlet for my creativity,” Teng said. “It also got me involved in health and fitness, which have become big parts of my life.”

 

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